The English Teacher Review

(1 STAR)

Maybe she owed the director money. Maybe the version of the script she’d read before accepting the part wasn’t close to the shooting script. Maybe she was blackmailed. Maybe the shoot was simply convenient for her. I’m searching for a reason why Julianne Moore accepted the lead role in The English Teacher, an awful new film from veteran television director Craig Zisk. That one of our most talented actresses would find this project acceptable in any way is utterly mind-boggling. Yeah, maybe she’s lost her mind.

Whatever the case, The English Teacher exists, and that’s a real shame.

The film takes place in Kingston, Pennsylvania (about 20 minutes from where I grew up incidentally), and we’re told by the most obnoxious of voiceovers that Linda Sinclair (Moore) is a happy, albeit simple and lonely high school English teacher. When a former student, Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano), moves back home from New York where he lived the life of a struggling writer, Linda mentors him. His father, Dr. Tom Sherwood (Greg Kinnear), is incredibly unsupportive of Jason’s writing, but Linda sees real talent in the young man.

She presents one of Jason’s pieces to Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane), the school’s drama teacher, who’s smitten with Jason and his incredible play, “The Chrysalis”. Together, Carl and Linda bring the play to the administration, who are horrified by some of the story’s violent imagery, as well as the potentially expensive production values associated with putting it on. The compromise they strike: every cent they go over budget comes out of Linda’s pocket and Jason must agree to soften the ending.

Over the course of 90 minutes, Zisk proves completely unable to develop a single character beyond having one irritatingly static trait. Linda is sheepish. Jason is neurotic. Carl is theatrical. Tom is an ass. That’s it. There’s nothing else to this movie as it follows a formula that’s impossibly tired.

Moore isn’t terrible, but everything and everyone around her is inexcusably bad. Nathan Lane ratchets the ridiculousness up through the ceiling. Greg Kinnear is sleepwalking through the role of villain before taking a slight turn that’s as stupid as it is poorly choreographed. Michael Angarano vacillates wildly between sympathetic loser and dickish horndog. The acting just doesn’t measure up to anything remotely resembling respectability.

A lot of the blame goes to a truly turgid screenplay, which wants to be subversive and playful, but misses the mark by a long shot. The film’s narrator comes and goes when it’s convenient and is ultimately dismissed in what’s supposed to be a hilarious gag, but because she’s not a consistent presence, it feels distracting more than funny. The way Linda “grades” the men in her life injects some visual energy into the film, but it too is merely a gag that never comes to life the way Zisk and company probably thought it would. And the story itself relies on an inordinate amount of cliches and coincidences to get from point A to point B.

The English Teacher is just a mess in every way. It’s a film that inconsequential enough to avoid being named among the worst of the last few years. But from a character and plot perspective, it’s right down there with anything I’ve seen of late.

Share This Post


One Response to The English Teacher Review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *